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Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Medical Problems to Rule Out First

Incontinence Caused by Medical Problems

Some dogs’ house soiling is caused by incontinence, a medical condition in which a dog “leaks” or voids his bladder. Dogs with incontinence problems often seem unaware that they’ve soiled. Sometimes they void urine while asleep. A number of medical issues-including a urinary tract infection, a weak sphincter caused by old age, hormone-related problems after spay surgery, bladder stones, diabetes, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, neurological problems and abnormalities of the genitalia-can cause urinary incontinence in dogs. Before attempting behavior modification for separation anxiety, please see your dog’s veterinarian to rule out medical issues.

Medications

There are a number of medications that can cause frequent urination and house soiling. If your dog takes any medications, please contact his veterinarian to find out whether or not they might contribute to his house-soiling problems.

Other Behavior Problems to Rule Out

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether a dog has separation anxiety or not. Some common behavior problems can cause similar symptoms. Before concluding that your dog has separation anxiety, it’s important to rule out the following behavior problems:

Submissive or Excitement Urination

Some dogs may urinate during greetings, play, physical contact or when being reprimanded or punished. Such dogs tend to display submissive postures during interactions, such as holding the tail low, flattening the ears back against the head, crouching or rolling over and exposing the belly. For more information about this problem, please see our article, Submissive Urination.  

Incomplete House Training

A dog who occasionally urinates in the house might not be completely house trained. His house training might have been inconsistent or it might have involved punishment that made him afraid to eliminate while his owner is watching or nearby. For help with house training, please see our articles, House Training Your Adult Dog and House Training Your Puppy.

Urine Marking

Some dogs urinate in the house because they’re scent marking. A dog scent marks by urinating small amounts on vertical surfaces. Most male dogs and some female dogs who scent mark raise a leg to urinate. For more information about urine marking and how to resolve it, please see our article, Urine Marking in Dogs

Juvenile Destruction

Many young dogs engage in destructive chewing or digging while their guardians are home as well as when they’re away. Please see our articles, Destructive Chewing and Digging, for more information about these problems.

Boredom

Dogs need mental stimulation, and some dogs can be disruptive when left alone because they’re bored and looking for something to do. These dogs usually don’t appear anxious.To learn about fun, effective ways to combat boredom and spice up your dog’s life, please see our articles, Enriching Your Dog’s Life, Exercise for Dogs and How to Stuff a KONG® Toy.

Excessive Barking or Howling

Some dogs bark or howl in response to various triggers in their environments, like unfamiliar sights and sounds. They usually vocalize when their guardians are home as well as when they’re away. For more information about this kind of problem, please see our articles, Barking and Howling

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

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